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Is Social Media Now Anti-Social?

Authors: Andrew Freeman Andrew Freeman
Posted Under: Social Media
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andrewf.jpgGuest post by Andrew Freeman (@andrewfreeman), an online Campaign Manager and Media Planner for Sitewire, where he is also a regular blog contributor. Andrew loves marketing, psychology and all things digital, his musings can be read at

social media is anti-socialI am going to go out on a limb and say that I think social media is now anti-social. There are a lot of people and organizations using this medium that are in fact annoying and on some occasions unethical.

In preparing for this post I wanted to try and define what social actual means and I think these definitions from are great examples:

1. living together or enjoying life in communities or organized groups
2. a party of people assembled to promote sociability and communal activity
3. marked by friendly companionship with others

The Internet and social media close the gap, and enable communities to form over vast distances, from almost every corner of the globe.

Surely this is the age of digital Nirvana? Shangri-La? Eden?

For some people yes, but increasingly, it is turning into a nightmare due to anti-social behavior.

Hashtag Abuse

Habitat UK has been roundly criticized for using popular hashtags in their promotional tweets. Many of these spam tweets involved phrases related to the Iranian election and subsequent protests. Here is a selection of Habitat UK’s spam tweets. Fortunately they have now deleted the offending articles from their Twitter account. But it remains to be seen how much damage has been done to their reputation, at least in the online world. is a social network, similar to Facebook and MySpace. Currently it is in the process of being sued for stealing people’s identities. Andrew Cuomo, New York’s Attorney General, accused of deceptive email practices in an effort to solicit new members. Basically, after a new member signed up, they were alledgedly coerced into submitting a list of email addresses from their email accounts. Their contacts were then sent an email which appeared to come from them, asking them to view photos. Many people signed up to find that there were no photos of them.

One More, and I’ll Scream

Do you have a social media pet peeve? I do. Mine is the Twitter hashtag contest. Why do companies think that I want to see their name in my Twitter stream? There has been a definite trend in trying to get an organization’s name into the trending topics of Twitter. Interestingly, the best exponent of this recently has been

Squarespace was giving away an iPhone a day for 30 days. To enter for a particular day all that was needed was a tweet with the #squarespace hashtag. My twitter stream seemed to be choked up with these hashtags especially because you had to enter this contest each day. After generating more than 12,000 tweets, Squarespace realized that this was an annoying way to market a product and announced that just tweeting once will get you entered into the competition forever.

I think there are two main lessons to be learned that should be followed by any organization using social media:

1. Be open and honest – If you are using any deceptive practices, you will be found out and the social media that you are utilizing will very likely be used against you.
2. Observe social media etiquette – While you can try and stand out by being different, you run the risk of causing annoyance to your potential customers.

Unfortunately there are likely to be many organizations and individuals willing to use the Internet and other technologies to try and push their agenda, even if it is not what their intended audience wants.

Do you have any examples of anti-social behavior in the social media world that you would like to share?

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